What does Hallelujah mean?

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Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah Meaning

Song Released: 1984


Covered By: Rufus Wainwright (2007), Jordan Smith (2015)


Hallelujah Lyrics

Lyrics removed by the request of NMPA

  1. 1TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Mar 27th, 2010 3:45pm report


    The first time I heard this song it touched me. Both the melody and the words are really powerful. This is my interpretation.

    The logic of the song is there can be many different hallelujah's. Hallelujah can be said in many different circumstances.

    Lennard Cohen uses this theme to talk about the hardships of love.

    There are many biblical references in the song (King David, Samson and Delilah). I will not go in to them, other have already explained these references in great detail.

    There are many versions of this song. Even LC did not always sing the same verses.
    I believe the version he performed during his 2008 tour (maybe still does) is the most logical (complete):

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    David loves music, but his love does not. He does not understand this (is baffled) and tries to explain (the cords are matched by the actual song), thus composing the Hallelujah.
    I believe this is about unmatched intrests in a relationship.

    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    The man (David) falls in love, but the relation is not a healty one. It ends up with him submitting and losing his powers. It is a distructive relationship and the Hallelujah is one of dispair.

    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    Maybe the most "black" verse, reflecting on the bitterness of love. When you hear a Hallelujah it's probably not because of joy (seeing the light), but because someone is hurting.

    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    The relationship still exists, but it's hollow. It is like it was when he was alone. He has seen the glorious side of love (the flag on the marble arch), but the love is not lasting and his hart is broken, therefore the Hallelujah is cold and broken.

    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He remembers when things were good, how their lovemaking made him feel like they were really together, and their Hallelujahs were those of joy and ecstasy.

    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    The conclusion of the song: Here LC turns from looking back to looking forward.
    We try, but often fail in love. We start with the best intentions and though it can go wrong, we need to try. In the end it is worth it. This Hallelujah is optimistic, because it shows that the hardships have not defeated him.

    This last verse is not included in most covers, but for me the last verse makes the song complete. It takes it full circle, bringing back the biblical relationship between the subject and a (the) Lord. It also gives the song a hyperbolic ending, which I prefer.



  2. 2TOP RATED

    crissy
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    Feb 1st, 2009 2:27pm report


    Most of the interpretations I have heard refer to biblical stories and of course it is impossible to ignore the analogies with King David and Bathsheba. However,I think these can obscure the meaning of the song and I would rather go beyond them. Analyzing a poem line by line sometimes misses the core of meaning which may actually be not fully realized by the poet himself.What after all was Kubla Khan, Coleridges poem about? It came out of a drug-induced reverie and the words are impossible to interpret literally.

    What I see in the poem is a man who finds it hard to reconcile his own singular personal quest for truth as a spiritual seeker and as a creative artist with earthly love.He is "overthrown" by the beauty of the woman bathing on the roof and intoxicated with desire for her yet with that comes compromise.Being tied to a kitchen chair suggests being bound to domesticity and having his hair cut recalls Samson whose strength was lost when Delilah cut his hair.He feels he has sacrificed his power for ephemeral sexual desire,emotional needs and freedom from the burden of loneliness.

    And inevitably the hallelujah, the ecstasy fades and withit bitterness and disillusionment since his lover has no feeling for creativity as evidenced by her lack of interest in music,his explanation of which seems to fall on deaf ears.

    At the same time,the sexual magnetism, "down below" has diminished or even gone in the way that the energy of many relationships weaken into dead habit.

    So there is a sense he has been left with nothing, doubting a god above and likening earthly love to a gunfight.It is as if he has betrayed his deepest yearnings and is only left with a cold and broken hallelujah, an empty exhortation, a state of inner desolation.

    Yet the tone of the song is so bittersweet, so beautiful and sad that there might be a suggestion that he has reconciled those feelings and accepted the limits of the relationship,knowing that even sharing a life with someone cannot assuage his inner loneliness.

    Hallelujah is a beautiful,ironic and melancholy masterpiece.



  3. 3TOP RATED

    anonymous
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    Sep 3rd, 9:49pm report


    This song is about David's relationship with God and at the same time Leonard Cohen's. This interpretation is not based on this song only but the words of some of LC's others. He speaks a lot about recognizing his brokenness. I refer to the four verse version rather than the six verse.

    The first is about the "secret chord David played that pleased the Lord." There is no such secret music chord, that chord is repentance from the mistake he made with Bathsheba. "But you do not care for music (repentance) do you". "It goes like this the fourth the fifth, the minor fall" (David's transgression), "the major lift" (David's restitution subsequent to his repentance Ps 51, after the prophet Nathan had pointed out his sin). "The King of battle, (which David was) composing hallelujah" or praise the Lord. David wrote many of the Psalms including many of praise. LC had experienced similar events in his life which were also transgressions (he spoke to himself about this is the song 'going home')

    The second verse is David's faith "your was strong (had killed a lion, a bear and Goliath) but you needed proof" and then he saw her (Bathsheba) on the roof, her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you" (David and LC). The point being that none of us knows whether we can withstand enough temptation. The beauty and moonlight can overthrow us. His sin with Bathsheba overthrew him until he repented. This pleased the Lord. LC draws an analogy with the Samson-Delilah incident. She tied him to a kitchen chair, she broke his throne and cut his hair and from Davids mouth she drew (removed) David's desire to praise God.

    Third verse, "you say I took His name in vain". Here LC is referring about himself and the life which he feels has not been as God-honoring as it could have been. "But I don't even know the name" (LC is searching after God including within the teachings of Christ. He refers to this often in other songs of his, for example that he does not understand the sermon on the mount). This is a deep sermon that many Christians also do not understand. LC understands a lot more than he lets on. "But if I did really what is it to you". We are not to judge the actions of others in that way. "There is a blaze of light in every word, it does not matter what you heard the holy or the broken, hallelujah". God is light (1 Jn 1:5) and when one speaks to God, whether out of brokenness (LC is very conscious of his) or holiness (no human is holy, but some may not feel the extreme sense of brokenness that LC does).

    Fourth verse "I did my best, it was not much, I couldn't feel so I tried to touch (Read Act 17:27 in KJV where Paul explains to people on Mars Hill, that people seek God by feeling after Him that they might find Him, yet he is not far from us). "I've told the truth, I did not come to fool you". LC is telling us the truth of his life in this song. "and even though it all went wrong" (LC is repentant of many things in his life - he alone knows the extent), "I'll stand before the Lord of Song (God), with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah (praise). LC is aware that although he has fallen God will restore him like David. LC (like all of us) has nothing to offer but repentance, but God will honor that.

    LC is a deeply spiritual man, spent 6 years in a monastery. He is acutely aware of how he has fallen and tells himself in many of his songs that he will be restored one day. Listen to LCs songs 'come healing", 'going home' (where he talks to himself and assures himself that he will leave behind his burden) and also 'anthem' where our brokenness is necessary for light to enter.

    In many ways LC is reminiscent of Leo Tolstoy, a fellow human who was also tempted and felt too weak to withstand it, in spite of wanting to do otherwise. May God bless LC and many other of our fellow humans so troubled. May God have mercy on others of us who are not at all troubled about our transgressions.



  4.  

    anonymous
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    Feb 19th, 18:51 report


    This song reveals both kinds of love: spiritual and intimate. Both are equally disappointing, yet yearned for. It is a mourning cry for acceptance through both kinds of love, yet unrequited. Acceptance of this rejection is mournfully expressed. It is a fact of living after being abandoned, twice.



  5.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 31st, 1:14am report


    Life hits you in different ways no one ever knows what can be next love hate despair fulfillment loneliness you can fall in love and tell the world is for ever next thing you know you are alone sitting in a coffee shop a book store a restaurant contaplating those happy couples that look so much in love and looking at your self and realizing oh my God I am all alone in a human way and than asking God to comfort you and help you and than too you could be one of those happy people of couples being contaplated by someone else going through those exacts thouhgts and emotions . Isn't life beautiful and at other times you are hurting too much to even want to think about those are all the different hallelujahs amen we all have to face them ...



  6.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 6th, 1:44am report


    Someone said we needed to know Leonard's interpretation of this song. Here is Leonard said:

    Leonard Cohen explained: "Hallelujah is a Hebrew word which means 'Glory to the Lord.' The song explains that many kinds of Hallelujahs do exist. I say: All the perfect and broken Hallelujahs have an equal value.

    Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley Songfacts
    www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=2504



  7.  

    anonymous
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    Jan 4th, 1:41pm report


    Praise to god for the good the bad and the ugly for that is life.



  8.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 23rd, 12:25am report


    Everyone seems to get it all wrong.
    Leonard Cohen is simply singing about the frustration of a man who is not religious dealing with the whims of a very devoutly religious person. He loves her, tries to accept her beliefs but it conflicts with his own...he is a closet atheist.
    I know the story...I've been there!

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  9.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 21st, 12:30pm report


    Knowing a little about LC's life may be helpful out. He was raised in a conservative Jewish family and his father was a Talmudic Scholar. Early in his life he was an admired and prolific poet. His poems, essays, and interviews made it clear he was in a life long struggle to understand God, which included a few years formally studying Buddhism. But, he always said that he was Jewish and had not abandoned his faith, and while he was not strict in his observance, when he passed away this year we learned he had requested a an Orthodox Jewish service.
    So, what does that tell us about the song. 1st it helps to understand the subtle difference between the Jewish and Christian meaning of the word Hallelujah. For Christians it is a word of praise for God, a nown..."I Praise You". But in Hebrew, it is a direction, a verb...(You/We) "Give Praise to God". So, what LC is saying in all the stanzas is that he (we) must still give praise to God, even when we are "cold & broken".
    His original recorded version only had the four verses that related to God and the struggle of faith. Years later he added the three new verses clearly related to the joy and pain of human love. In the Jewish faith, the joy in sex is one of God's gifts and to LC it had a spiritual dimension.
    LC once claimed to have written many more verses for the song/poem? that were never published.
    So, in the end it is an uplifting poem about the struggle to see the and understand the gifts of God. And, while LC was a Jew, he saw this as a common struggle for people of faith. And, as a poet, he would not be upset if you found your own meaning in his words. And, that's why he never bothered to explain them.



  10.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 19th, 12:52am report


    All of these explanations ignore the terms The fourth, the fifth The minor fall, the major lift. What the hell do these musical terms mean and how do they impact the meaning of the whole song.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  11.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 18th, 12:57pm report


    I agree with the first one, but by no means think it has anything to do with Christmas.



  12.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 18th, 12:58am report


    I think it is about our imperfect lives that God will accept in the end.

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway


  13.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 6th, 12:20pm report


    I think we needed Mr Cohen's explanation. Why was it never sought? All I can say is the first two verses are spiritual.



  14.  

    anonymous
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    Dec 4th, 12:20pm report


    The Lord God the Father the Son & the Holy Spirit have so loved man/woman that all should rejoice for this as well as human loves lost or kept.



  15.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 25th, 11:53pm report


    I've read all the interpretations. I wish we had Leonard Cohen's input. I do subscribe to the idea that this is about a broken love. Haunting and melancholy...I really like Pentatonix's a cappella version. Just enjoy it...



  16.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 18th, 11:06pm report


    This song is simply about a fight with a spouse/lover.

    Verse 1:
    Now I've heard there was a secret chord
    That David played, and it pleased the Lord
    But you don't really care for music, do you?
    It goes like this
    The fourth, the fifth
    The minor fall, the major lift
    The baffled king composing Hallelujah

    The writer is saying he thought of his lover as his "god" but everything he does is not very pleasing to her. He even does stuff that would be pleasing to the one true Lord but she still rejects it.


    Verse 2:
    Your faith was strong but you needed proof
    You saw her bathing on the roof
    Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
    She tied you
    To a kitchen chair
    She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
    And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

    Even though he loves his lover, he is a weak man and cheated on his lover, just like David did with Bathsheba (sinned against God), and Samson did by revealing to Delilah the source of his strength. The affair did not end well, and it appears now his lover has found out about it.


    Verse 3:
    Maybe there's a God above
    But all I've ever learned from love
    Was how to shoot somebody who outdrew ya
    And it's not a cry that you hear at night
    It's not somebody who's seen the light
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    He and his lover are now trading barbs in their argument. "All we ever do now is fight." Nobody wins in a lover's quarrel.


    Verse 4:
    Baby I have been here before
    I know this room, I've walked this floor
    I used to live alone before I knew you.
    I've seen your flag on the marble arch
    Love is not a victory march
    It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah

    He is saying he can live without her, but he doesn't want to. He's telling her that she is claiming that "she won" by kicking him to the curb, but no one is winning because he says they LOVE each other.


    Verse 5:
    There was a time you let me know
    What's really going on below
    But now you never show it to me, do you?
    And remember when I moved in you
    The holy dove was moving too
    And every breath we drew was Hallelujah

    He is making one more plea to his lover to take him back. Remember the good times. Also throws in one little barb - "You never even try to share your feelings (or sex) with me any more!"


    Verse 6:
    I did my best, it wasn't much
    I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
    I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you
    And even though
    It all went wrong
    I'll stand before the Lord of Song
    With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

    Resignation. He is saying I tried hard to do good in this relationship (other than the affair) and you are not even trying to work this out. "I've done everything I can to make up for my mistake, and if you won't accept it there is nothing else I can do about it. Even though his prior mistake (affair) hurts him, he is moving on with his life with no regrets about the past.



  17.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 17th, 11:41am report


    In "Hallelujah", LC may deal with something he experienced in his private live. He may have fallen in love with a woman who was the partner of somebody else. The attraction was too strong to resist. Quite possibly, for her abandoned partner this was a tragedy. Now, after months or years of deep and hot love,the lovers have drifted apart.

    Remorse has gained the upper hand. For LC it is a small comfort that something similar happened to king David.

    What he makes of it, is touching and admirable. It's one of the best poems and songs we have.



  18.  

    anonymous
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    Nov 16th, 11:02pm report


    How about an opposite interpretation? This song is about the rejection of spiritual communion with God. David plays his heartfelt secret chord for the Lord, who is pleased at David's attempts to worship, since that strokes the Lord's ego, and the Lord praises David's attempts but does not truly appreciate his urgent creative expression. The Lord doesn't care for his music, or even David's love, he only cares for the worship. He does not love him back. So, David takes his unrequited love for the Lord and turns to a woman. She gleefully takes his power, but in return, gives him pleasure and understanding that he did not receive from God. The tying to a kitchen chair and haircut is a metaphor for being humbled by the return of his love. Giving up his power in return for this earthly pleasure brings a Halleluja to his lips and a gratefulness for love and understanding that God could not extract. He now worships her, and her ability to give him pleasure and love. He resists judgement by other people for his decision to worship this woman over God. Then, in the final verses, he describes that it was the lack of God's actual love for him that led him to live a life in pursuit of love in the mortal world instead. He now worships his own creativity (the lord of song) and human love.



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